Green Car Reports tell us about the next new transportation fuel you’ve never heard of.  It is methanol and they are testing it right now in China. Ethanol is already being used in North America, blended with gasoline, to power automobiles. Methanol is also an alcohol like ethanol but simpler to produce as it is naturally produced by landfills and from human and animal waste.  However, it has one-third less energy content than ethanol and only half that of gasoline (petrol). The Chinese are now studying its effects on automobile engine components. The research is in response to the country’s announcement that it plans to begin a trial run of methanol-powered cars. Though toxic, methanol has the advantage of being biodegradable in only a matter of days, and though flammable, it can be extinguished with water–unlike gasoline–and it’s less volatile. We will keep an eye on this story to see how successful the tests are.

Meanwhile, gulflive wants us to know that propane may be the next “stealth” transportation fuel. Stuart Weidie, chief executive officer of Blossman Gas in the US state of Mississippi, is promoting the economic advantages of propane at a time of rising gasoline prices. Propane is a by-product of natural gas and oil refining. Propane for automobiles is known as Autogas and there are currently 17 million vehicles running on it worldwide. “It is the third-most-widely used fuel behind gasoline and diesel, and natural gas is a distant fourth.”  Propane also gets better fuel efficiency than CNG or about 90% of that achieved by gasoline but is about 30% cheaper than gasoline. It is also cheaper to build a propane refueling network than for CNG. Converting your vehicle to propane is cheaper than converting to compressed natural gas ($5000 vs about $10,000) primarily because the tank is less expensive.  Right now CNG is getting all the buzz in North America because of cheap natural gas prices and the aggressive public promotion by former oil executive T. Boone Pickens.  It will be interesting to see if propane can make its mark.

How would you like to fill up your car on garbage? The Ohio Agricultural Development and Research Center is doing just that says Farm and Dairy.  It has converted 4 of its vehicles to run on compressed natural gas (CNG) produced locally from renewable, plentiful organic waste, such as chicken fat, rotten tomatoes and the byproducts of making potato chips. The fuel costs only about two-thirds as much as gasoline and, when burned, emits about a third less greenhouse gas. The CNG is derived from an anaerobic digester which converts food-processing waste into a methane biogas.  The biogas is then used to generate electricity for the research center as well as power the four vehicles (a Ford F-150 and 3 Ford Fusions). CNG and gasoline get about the same fuel economy, according to a U.S. Department of Energy website but the CNG is costing one-third less than gasoline. The article posits that the CNG conversion pays for itself in 5 to 12 years depending on the price differential between CNG and gasoline.

The LaCrosse Tribune tells us how compressed natural gas works.

My Perfect Automobile givens an upbeat future for CNG in the US after attending the Marcellus Midstream Conference, a natural gas industry event that hosts nearly 2,000 producers, scientists, marketers and financial backers of the industry.  AOL Energy suggests that natural gas vehicles may have reached the “tipping point.” The post says that both CNG and LPG are gaining more market acceptance in the US trucking industry now that the price of diesel is substantially above its natural gas counterparts.  However, there are still many challenges that have to be met before natural gas can be competitive. Perhaps the most important is the need for ubiquitous quick-fueling natural gas infrastructure. See also Automotive World, US ‘dash to gas’ could founder on the practicalities.

Refrigerated Transporter informs us that major freight carriers in the US are converting their trucking fleets to natural gas.

The Motley Fool gives investment advice as to who will win the race between the electric highway and the natural gas highway in North America. Its conclusion?  Natural gas.  CNG and LPG have the advantage over electric vehicles in terms of vehicle adoption and range anxiety and easily matches electricity in its coverage of the North American continent.

We go for a test drive in Volkswagon’s new CNG car at Drive Arabia.  Learn about the VW Passat Ecofuel which can run on both natural gas and petrol.

In Omaha, Nebraska we meet a utility company and taxi company that are running their fleets on CNG in a KETV 7 report. With CNG about $2.00 per gallon cheaper than gasoline, the utility is saving about $24,000 per year on each of its 100 vehicles.

MapMuse enables drivers to locate CNG stations in the US. Read more about MapMuse here.

 

 

 

 

 

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